With impeccable timing, my parents have made two visits to Bigtown in the past month, both times coinciding with epic weather warnings. Despite visiting during the floods at the end of October, they are planning to move over here (to be closer to their favourite daughter, naturally) so on Friday they made the drive again to view some houses, managing to arrive just before Storm Arwen had got into its stride, with red weather warnings ringing in our ears.
This morning, having congratulated ourselves on surviving the weekend’s storm with only minimal damage (the house is now wearing the gutter from one of its dormer windows at rather a jaunty angle), we woke to discover that Arwen had an unexpected sting in its tail…
I do love snow, generally, however inconvenient, but this didn’t look like the sort of weather we could in all conscience send two 80-somethings out into on a 100 mile drive. However, they were keen to get home so after an anxious morning spent alternately checking the rain radar and the live traffic cameras on the A7, they decided to take the risk and set off armed with emergency blankets, snacks and a thermos full of tea.
An hour or so later, with the sun out and a cheery message from Mum saying they had reached Langholm and all was well and they were happily eating their emergency snacks, we could go out and enjoy what was left of the snow with a clear conscience.
So I survived my guest lecture this morning – the students seemed to largely pay attention throughout (I had visions of competing with their urgent snapchat conversations but it seems Young People These Days have absolutely no difficulty in putting their phones away and listening to someone rabbiting on, despite what you might think from the media). After some lively discussion and a (rather more academically informed) presentation on Warm Showers I climbed back into my Not Waterproof in Scotland waterproof trousers and my Actually Pretty Waterproof in Scotland rain jacket, and headed for home.
The ride in had been damp but in the end not too miserable, but as I had been pontificating about the joys of the authentic experiences available to those who travel by bike, the Weather Gods had been brewing up a properly authentic weather experience for my ride home. Well, authentic in all but one detail – true authenticity would have required a grinding headwind. Instead what I got was a fairly epic tailwind through town (interesting on the riverfront where, had there been any actual pedestrians hardy enough to be out on it, I would have had trouble slowing down for them) and then a properly epic cross-tailwind for the final climb up to the house. It’s quite something to suddenly find yourself cycling along on the wrong side of a B road when a gust catches you unawares; fortunately there were no other vehicles foolish enough to be out in this weather.
From the outside, had there been anyone to witness it, I must have looked a miserable sight – rainswept and windblown, battering uphill on a pushbike, my cap stuffed in my pocket for safekeeping. But I have to confess that it was actually a lot of fun. It’s one thing to leave a warm house and go out into the wind and the rain on a bike. It’s quite another to take on the wind and the rain, knowing you’ve a warm house to get home to.
Of course, this all depends on said wind and rain then not taking out your power for a couple of hours once you do get home. Thank goodness for woodburners, and laptops with decent batteries. And engineers who are willing to go out and repair power lines in a howling gale… now that really must be miserable.
It seems odd to recall that only two days ago, it was mild and sunny enough in the Borders for me to take my visiting Irish uncle out and get him thoroughly lost* on a Paperbike.
The next morning we woke to falling snow and and by the time I had returned home (via England, for reasons too complicated to go into, and Notso Bigtown to try out a local choir that seems open to new members who can’t necessarily, technically, sing all that well) the snow was falling and settling thickly enough to possibly merit the approximately 17,000 warning messages the Met Office App has has been sending to my phone.
We woke to find that perhaps yesterday might have been better spent panic-buying supplies than gadding about and singing, but with a bit of wheelspinning the other half got the car out of the drive and went and emptied out what was left in Tesco. With him safely home again, a full fridge, and the path to the garage cleared and gritted, so we can get at our fuel supplies, we decided we weren’t going anywhere else today than a nice gentle walk between snow showers.
The Met Office is predicting more of the same overnight, and I’d love nothing more than to hole up and make inroads on our emergency cheese supplies, but I have a couple of meetings in Glasgow instead, if we’re able to get out of our drive in the morning. The weather may be wintry, but spring – and peak cycle-campaigning season – is just around the corner.
speaking of which, fingers crossed the Weather Gods will either relent for this – or give us enough snow for it to be double the fun.
* fortunately, he is surgically attached to his iPhone so was able to navigate us a route home
It’s not often I get this right but this morning, having emerged from my yoga class to see that it wasn’t yet raining, and knowing that the forecast was swithering between diabolical and merely dire, I abandoned my plans to spend the rest of the day in my co-working office and hopped straight back on the bike to get home before the impending weather warning made good on its promises.
The wind was already strong enough to snatch my cap from my head as I crossed the river, forcing me to stuff it in my bag for safe keeping. As I got out of town I was sheltered from the worst of the crosswind by the hedges but I could see the electricity wires all being blown sideways by its force and hear every loose bit of metal in every farm yard banging as I passed. It was only as I turned into the wind for the last couple of miles that I really felt its force, and by then the rain had started, and hail too for I was crunching little pellets of ice between my gritted teeth as I put my head down and powered for home. I arrived damp and chilled, and feeling as if I had been freshly sanded down.
All the same, as I stood by the Rayburn and watched the rain get blown past with increasing force, in warm dry clothes and with a cup of coffee in my hands, I was smug as only a cyclist can be smug who knows she has beaten the weather for once – and that she doesn’t have to go out in it again…
… brought to you by Duns, freak weather capital of the UK, which yesterday was hazily sunny, mild and calm. We even ventured to the coast for a very pleasant clifftop walk from Coldingham Bay to St. Abbs and back, with a brief stop for coffee and bacon rolls at the cafe in the harbour.
If I ever built a shed, it would probably end up looking exactly like this
This morning, checking the weather forecast, I noticed that Bigtownshire had a little weather warning all of its own, for heavy rain. And indeed as we drove up over the pass beyond St Mary’s Loch, you could see that the border was marked by the clouds closing in and the rain blotting out everything else.
To be honest, we’d have almost been disappointed by anything else
I’ve been watching the weather fairly anxiously recently because the local cycle campaign have long been planning a series of family-friendly easy summer rides, starting today. This was beginning to look spectacularly ill-timed, given that we are apparently having the wettest spring and summer in the history of ever, with the Met Office issuing weather warnings on a daily basis and the radio awash with tales of streets awash and apocalyptic pronouncements of doom and gloom arriving with every weather bulletin.
And yet … and yet … yes, we’ve had a fair bit of rain recently, I’ll grant you that. And yes, I’ve even taken to heading out on the bike on drizzly days because although I have long been a fair weather cyclist, the only thing worse than riding your bike in the rain is not riding your bike at all, and that was beginning to look like the alternative. But then again, it’s not (whisper it) been raining all that hard around here, compared to some places. And in fact (whisper it again), yellow warning or no yellow warning, it didn’t really rain at all yesterday. In fact, so far, the weather was worse last year and we haven’t had to sit indoors watching the rain trickle down the windows while hearing all about the terrible heat wave they were having down south. Could it be (whisper it once more) that it’s only a dreadful apocaplytic flood-ridden summer when it affects London in some way?
This morning I woke in the early hours to thunderous rain. The Met Office was excelling itself with amber warnings covering most of Scotland. It was a louring dark gloomy grey drizzly morning. My twitter feed was filling up with tales of floods and downpours and cancelled events. It was not boding well. But the drizzle stopped and the dark grey became slightly less dark and finally quite bright grey which in a moment of optimism I rebranded as actual sunlight. By the time I was ready to pedal into Bigtown there was enough blue in the sky, as they say, to make a sailor a pair of trousers. And by the time I arrived, we could have outfitted the entire fleet.
It was, in fact, glorious
We even managed to have our post-ride cafe stop outside
I’m not 100% sure how we managed that, but we did. Now we just have to repeat the trick every Saturday afternoon until the end of August. That might take a lot of sacrificial goats, especially now I’ve posted this…
I wasn’t expecting to cycle at all this morning. I knew there was an amber weather alert for gales and high winds* and when we woke up this morning it was beyond grim out there: raining, blowing, visibility down to mere yards at time. But then something odd happened – the wind didn’t drop but the rain stopped and the sun even put in an appearance and I decided to seize the opportunity and nip down for the paper after all.
Well, I say ‘nip’, but with the wind being what it was, ‘battle’ might have been a better word, at least for the outward leg. Coming down to Nearest Village wasn’t too bad, although the road was running with water from all the rain and the tarmac was scattered with debris from the wind (it’s always a shame when we get late spring gales to see the fresh new leaves all shredded on the ground, and coming into the village I also saw the body of a fledgeling rook that had probably been tossed out of its nest). But it was as I left the relative shelter of the village and the road turned directly into the wind that it got interesting. There were a few moments when I did actually grind to a halt, despite pedalling with all my might, and others where the bike skittered sideways in a sudden gust of crosswind and it took all my luck to stay upright and out of the hedge. But even on the way out it was an exhilarating ride. Every overhead wire hummed with its own note as I passed and every tree was in movement, the forests roaring like the sea. With the clouds racing through the sky everything was patterned with fleeting sun and shadows and where the grass had been left to grow long for silage whole hillsides seemed to be alive, rippling like the play of muscles under an animal’s skin.
And then there was the ride back. I’d not put my GPS on the bike so I don’t know what speed I hit, but I’m pretty certain that some records may have been breached when the wind and the downhill sections coincided. There was definitely one point when I felt the wind take me like a boat before a storm and it’s probably fortunate that there wasn’t much else on the road around me because I’m not sure I could have either braked or steered around any sudden obstacle.
Cycling in Manchester over the weekend we were all struck by the ferocity of the headwinds which don’t so much blow there as ambush you round every corner. The Manchester cyclists we were with were united in their dislike of wind, which they considered far worse even than the rain. I’m sure if we had winds like this constantly, or if I had to get anywhere quickly and looking in any way shevelled, I’d probably go off the wind here too. But when it’s just occasionally and coincides with an otherwise sunny-ish day on empty roads, all I can say is it’s an absolute blast.
* I know the weather’s going to get interesting up here when my London friends start emailing me the forecast…